One of the first big Internet companies was my company, Freeserve, it launched 20 years in 1998, and then the Internet boom started. For years people talked about e-commerce (now called internet shopping,) but nothing happened. Smug people said to me, "I told you so," many years later than expected, companies like Amazon finally came onto the scene and then the e-commerce boom really started.
Then people said e-commerce would have a significant effect on the high street, but nothing happened, and the same smug people said, "I told you so." So, has the tipping point finally arrived? Yes, it just took a bit longer for things to change and in that time, people started to relax.
We are now awash with disruptors who typically adopt new business models profoundly different from the incumbents, ones designed to appeal to the customer needs, simple.
The disruption theory is that alternatives suppliers grow market share by starting from the edges of a market, then they work their way up and into higher-value sectors. Then at a certain point, the established supplier collapses, and the challenger becomes the new incumbent, simple.
Retail Week is busy with stories of doom and gloom in the high street. We’ve been talking about e-commerce for years, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The truth is the next generation have caused retail to go over the tipping point. Older people like me use the Internet in a different way to younger people who have grown up with the Internet.
The thing that changed everything was the smartphone. Wherever I go, people have a smartphone in their hand. People are addicted to it, go on a train or bus, and people are looking down at their phones, even when they are walking down the road. Companies that are doing well are the companies that know how to exploit this technology.
The other thing that changed is the next generation not only live on their smartphones, but they also don't think twice about returning something if it's not right. Older people don’t like to send stuff back, younger people don’t have a problem sending stuff back.
I've got three teenage daughters, and there is a constant stream of parcels delivered to the house. I still prefer to go to town to spend my money, but my daughters are happy to use technology.
When the Internet first arrived, people used it just to surf the Internet, they didn’t use it to buy anything, now I am in a panic when I can’t feel my smartphone in my pocket, this tells me everything.
The tipping point has arrived and the companies that are doing well are the ones that know how to exploit technology, every time I pay for my pasty at Greggs using Apple Pay, I have a smile on my face, it’s absolutely fantastic.
As you are reading this, you’ve probably got in a smartphone in your pocket so don’t be the ones that said, “I told you so.”